njansenv Reader
4/15/10 8:34 a.m.

Alright. Here's my situation: I'm REALLY close to pulling the trigger on a 2001 VW TDI golf. Only option is A/C (a plus, IMHO). 5-speed, 74k miles, $6000. CLEAN, spotless engine bay, some dings.

Should I? I commute 100 miles a day, am somewhat scared of VW (in no small part thanks to you guys! )

A little one on his or her way (and increasing loads at work) mean that I won't have the time to putter in the garage that I'd like. Current commuter is an '87 325i (with E rear end) that gets 28-30mpg. Fun. Wipers and heater gave up the ghost. Rusty underneath...terminal.

I think I'm at the point that another appliance is a good (or at least, practical) idea. My wife will be driving a 2003 Protege.

Other projects right now include: 1992 Corvette (keeper), 1990 520i (flipper/keep?), 1989 E30 (keeper - long term project). I've bit off more than I can chew.

Selling my DD, my wife's old DD (E30) and the 520 would about cover the TDI and would allow me to focus on The Vette and E30 as projects. In the meantime, I could drive my 'beigemobile' to the tune of ~$150/month fuel savings.


DukeOfUndersteer SuperDork
4/15/10 8:37 a.m.

Do it! Those old TDI's are bullet proof, and retain their value so well! I got a flash for it too!

grimmelshanks New Reader
4/15/10 8:46 a.m.

seriously, the tdis are sweet. do it.

4cylndrfury SuperDork
4/15/10 8:49 a.m.

TDI is the only shiny spot in the poo that is modern Vdubs...kinda like a dog ate a nickel.

Ian F
Ian F Dork
4/15/10 9:00 a.m.

I own a TDI, an '03 Jetta wagon I ordered new in '03. It currently has over 213K miles and has been the most reliable car I've ever owned. The car is stock, although may not stay that way for much longer.

$6K doesn't sound bad for those number of miles. Has the car had the timing belt replaced? At that year and mileage, it's due (possibly past due). TB failure in a TDI is bad (expensive).

Does the car come with any service records? TDI's are very picky about oil. The change interval is long (10K), but the correct (and unfortunately expensive) oil has to be used. Like most German cars, they are rather picky about coolant as well: only VW coolant and distilled water, changed every 100K (or with TB service).

Earlier ('03 and older) TDI's are good DIY'er cars. Plenty of tech help available (TDIclub.com) and they are pretty simple to work on. This is good since, finding someone trustworthy to wrench on it can be difficult. All work on my car has been done by me. I bought it pretty much expecting never to use the dealer unless absolutely necessary.

twolittlebroncos New Reader
4/15/10 9:31 a.m.

If you do your own wrenching and you're willing to spend a little time maintaining and possibly repairing the car then I fully endorse it.

Mileage is great (although diesel prices sometimes negate this attribute). The torque is fun and there's more to tap into with chip, injectors etc. The ALH motors (2001 would be ALH) are a great foundation for upgrades.

Timing belt changes require loosening motor mounts and a couple other odd procedures. MAF sensors on our 2000 TDI seemed to fail every 30-60k miles sending the car into limp mode. The intakes also get clogged up over time and need to be cleaned out.

There are tons of resources out there for doing all the work on these cars yourself. Vag-com is a nice tool to have for these cars, but there's often someone else nearby that has one if you don't want to buy one.

The best part of owning these cars is getting better mileage than the hybrids while still shifting your own gears and enjoying the drive.

klipless Reader
4/15/10 9:39 a.m.
4cylndrfury wrote: TDI is the only shiny spot in the poo that is modern Vdubs...kinda like a dog ate a nickel.

If that quote doesn't make it in to the magazine, I'll shoot this dog:

DrBoost Dork
4/15/10 9:57 a.m.

All you TDi owners, how have the non-powertrain items held up? It seems every post 1997 vdub owner pisses and moans about every electronic gremlin possible. That's kept me from considering a TDI.

njansenv Reader
4/15/10 11:24 a.m.

Unfortunately no records are available. It's a one owner car, at an admittedly somewhat shady lot. Coolant looks great, fwiw, but I'm not sure about the oil. Part of me is consoled that at such a (relatively) low mileage, it's less likely to have been turned into a problem. I know to use the right stuff. Timing belt will need to be done: no records = not worth the gamble IMHO.
I've spent some time on TDIClub: love the DIY support for TDI's. The fact that this is a basic car alleviates SOME of my concern about VW electrics. Some.

I'm fairly determined to buy it. Up here in Canuckistan, that price is quite low. Diesel is cheaper than gas 95% of the time up here, so that plays a role I think.

Thanks all! Nathan

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/15/10 11:38 a.m.

The oil will be black about 5 minutes after you poured it in as it is with pretty much any Diesel, so that's not that much of an issue. I'd still change it for the proper stuff just to be sure.

Ian F
Ian F Dork
4/15/10 11:38 a.m.

Electrics seem to be a crap shoot. Sometimes you get lucky. Other than an occassionally flakey turn signal switch and ghost sunroof operation, my car has been fine.

John Brown
John Brown GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
4/15/10 11:42 a.m.

Buy it then move to Lansing, Mi and help pay for my retirement.

nderwater Reader
4/15/10 12:29 p.m.

Our '01 Jetta TDi needed its window regulators replaced (very common), faulted its glowplug wiring harness every 40K miles (not that uncommon) but was always reliable. (However, it's worth noting that we sold it to my brother at 80K miles and within a year the car grenaded its clutch - but that could very well be due to his abuse.)

Other than the occasional electrical system issues, the car was problem free and served for five years as a very practical commuter car. It never came close to fulfilling our performance driving aspirations, but if you're simply in the market for a comfortable car to drive 100 miles a day, a TDI would certainly fill the bill.

Ian F
Ian F Dork
4/15/10 1:14 p.m.

Yeah... I'd say a clutch going at around 100K with a stock car would be user-error at some point. It's not uncommon to find cars with 200K+ (like mine) with the original clutch. One guy on TDIClub has over 400K. He's also still on the original front brakes (lots of hwy miles...).

A TDI is by far the easiest manual car I've driven. A light clutch, decent shifter and gobs of low-end torque make it pretty forgiving. With a little practice, you can run it from 1st thru 5th gears at about 25 mph without touching the go-pedal - even up hills. Makes for a fun way to pass time in bumper-bumper traffic (at the risk of pissing off those behind you).

I have replaced the glow plugs twice and the harness once. Replacing the plugs is easy... the harness is a bit of a pain, but there are worse tasks in the world.

I'll admit I find it a far more comfortable and practical commuter car than either of our MINI's. More reliable than the '03 as well (which spent a fair amount of time at the dealer for warranty work).

njansenv Reader
4/15/10 4:56 p.m.

Well, I pulled the trigger. Not super excited, but I think it's the "smart thing".
Ian: I certainly value your input, I've been reading your various TDI reports for a long time on this forum as I went back and forth on getting one. Fuel savings = more $$ for R-compounds. (and real life...) I pick it up Saturday, if all goes well.

friedgreencorrado SuperDork
4/15/10 6:11 p.m.

In reply to njansenv:

Let us know how it goes..I'm sorta kinda thinking about finding one of those at the moment.

belteshazzar SuperDork
4/15/10 7:07 p.m.

the good news is, if you regret it for any reason you're far from buried.

I think it was a good choice, & I'm no vw fan.

curtis73 GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
4/15/10 8:45 p.m.

Run away.

... Unless you live in a 20 mile radius of my repair shop. Without 99-04 VWs, I think we'd go out of business.

njansenv Reader
4/15/10 9:51 p.m.

Curtis, you don't like BMW's either, right? Cause that's what it's replacing. ;) I figure that there's pretty low risk at this price. If I hate it, or it starts to look like more trouble than it's worth, I sell it. FWIW, the car won't ever see the inside of a "shop" or dealership after it's been safetied.... I just don't seem to have much luck paying people to do stuff.

Thanks all!

friedgreencorrado SuperDork
4/16/10 1:15 a.m.

In reply to njansenv:

Sorry, just couldn't resist.


BobOfTheFuture Reader
4/16/10 4:04 a.m.

Wasnt there a GRM article on a guy who, with -if my memory serves- injectors and a reflash pulled 400 Torques (top gear ftw) out of a Beetle TDI?

ZOO GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/16/10 5:09 a.m.


I knew you'd become a torque junkie once you bought the Corvette :)


DrBoost Dork
4/16/10 6:18 a.m.
curtis73 wrote: Run away. ... Unless you live in a 20 mile radius of my repair shop. Without 99-04 VWs, I think we'd go out of business.

So, is that the magic pill, to get a pre 1999 VW? We had a 87 Jetta and it was stone reliable but that's long gone and with others horror stories I'm afraid to go german again.

twolittlebroncos New Reader
4/16/10 8:29 a.m.

I think the 99-04 VW's are fine for someone that's willing to learn about their car and get their hands dirty from time to time. Similar to the BMW. If you're going to have all the work done at a shop then it's not going to be worth owning, in my opinion. There's tons of DIY information out there, it's not rocket surgery and at the end of the day the cars are rewarding to drive.

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